Anti-Slavery California Ballot Measure Would Ban Forced Prison Labor

Anti-Slavery California Ballot Measure Would Ban Forced Prison Labor

Authored by Summer Lane via The Epoch Times,

A measure seeking to ban forced prison labor and formally prohibit slavery in California will be on the November ballot.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 8 would change the California Constitution to prohibit the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from disciplining any incarcerated person for refusing a work assignment. It would also prohibit “slavery in any form.”

“Forced labor has no redeeming qualities and is inconsistent with California’s respect for human dignity,” the amendment reads.

The measure was introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Lori Wilson in February 2023. It passed June 27 in the Senate with only three opposition votes from Republican Sens. Brian Dahle, Roger Niello, and Kelly Seyarto.

Their offices were not available for comment.

The measure passed the same day 68–0 in the Assembly.

“This historic measure will now be presented to the voters of California, giving them the power to decide on ending slavery and involuntary servitude in our state Constitution,” Ms. Wilson said in a statement Thursday after the two votes.

ACLU California Action argued in a position statement, in favor of the amendment, that the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution failed in abolishing slavery.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in involuntary servitude due to an ‘exception clause’ that allows free labor for punishment of a crime,” they wrote.

The possible amendment of the California Constitution is part of the “Reparations Priority Bill Package” introduced by the California Legislative Black Caucus in January.

The package includes 14 bills centered on civil rights, criminal justice reform, and health and business matters for black Californians written in response to a 2023 report from the state’s Reparations Task Force, tasked by the Legislature to survey “ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery.”

The report offered statewide reparations recommendations.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, an advocacy group working to end what it calls structural racism in the justice system, has also supported ACA 8.

“For the first time in California’s tarnished history around slavery, Black Americans and Indigenous people will be able to vote against slavery,” the organization wrote in a statement.

Although the bill had broad support among lawmakers, there are some criticisms.

Brian James, a former California state prison inmate who spent 29 years behind bars after being convicted of second-degree murder, said he disagrees with the measure.

“I believe work should be enforced,” he told The Epoch Times July 2.

Released in 2022, Mr. James, who also recently appeared on EpochTV’s “California Insider” on the topic of prison life, said working was an integral part of being incarcerated and said inmates are needed to do tasks like yard maintenance, plumbing work, electrical work, and cooking.

“Inmates run the entire facility,” he said.

Most convicted persons enter prison and are assigned jobs based on their education and experience, he said.

“If you don’t have a high school diploma, they will put you in school,” he said.

He described prison labor as “a point of dignity” rather than slavery. He also highlighted the “value of work” and said prisoners were “supposed to [be] gaining the skills to go back into society.”

The ballot measure needs more than a 50 percent yes vote to pass.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 07/03/2024 – 19:55